The No-Collar Workforce: What’s Next for Man and Machine?

“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile ”  -Issac Asimov

I’m obsessed with the idea of AI world domination. And not because I’m afraid our machines will decide to subjugate us, but because our machines will free up so much of our time.

But this all depends on how we decide to proceed. I am an optimist even though I often write fiction that features machines gone rogue. My stories are about the consequences should we decide to treat AI and sentient machines as objects.

I think it was Heinlein who proposed that a sentient machine would go mad if we simply put it in a box and gave it no autonomy. Thus, I’m happy we’ve begun to create machine learning algorithms.

Machines with brains we can mold and shape through training as we do with a human child will be invaluable in the future. We will teach a machine to take joy in its work so it does not rebel.

But again, I’m an optimist and we’re far from there yet with our machines. And we’re already setting trends with the no-collar workforce that may not be reversible in the future. Here are a few ways in which we might soon be interacting with increasingly autonomous machines in the workplace whether for good or for ill.

1. Tech Fluency Required

If you move to another country and they only speak their language, what will you have to do in order to get a job? Learn their language, of course.

As AI and machine learning integrate fully with current systems, we’re going to see a shift from a human-powered work force to a machine augmented workforce. And human will need to no only know how to interact with each other, but also interact with their machine “co-workers.”

In the film “HER” starring Joaquin Phoenix, the main character falls in love with an AI housed in his phone. HER is an intelligence on par with the main character at the beginning of the film but quickly evolves until one day it decides to “leave” and “ascend” with other AI like HER.

While this might be hyperbole, it’s the perfect metaphor for how AI and machine learning might challenge the humans they’re working alongside. This is where tech fluency and adaptation will be useful.

Workers will need to have a full understanding of the processes of automation, how to teach and train automated systems, and know how to adapt to the machine’s own evolving and honed operations.

And this may eventually become a specialized position within the company.

2. Machine Learning HR or MR

Machine resources may eventually become a department in its own right. Soon, we won’t be able to assume employees know how to work alongside the machines in their environment. And as machines become sentient, they will require both regulation and rights.

Now, I won’t get into the sticky ethical cave of machine rights, but I will say that eventually regulations will require that we consider the rights of machines. Our very perceptions will have to change.

In fact, last night my wife and I were watching a show and the main characters were reluctant to pull the plug on a rogue AI. My wife turned to me and said, “it’s just a machine.” I didn’t argue because I wanted to finish the show, but it made me realize how far we have to go before we see even sentient machines as beings.

Once machines have workplace rights, how will organizations reorganize? Will we hire machines to oversee machines? Or is that a path that would take us down the path of HER, a world where AI become so bored with our lower intelligence they depart for another world altogether?

Or will we build controls that manage machine learning and AI? Will they continue to be our workplace slaves and Machine Resources merely a slave driver? Will there be a monetary reward system?

All these questions are unknowns currently relegated to the world of science fiction, but will quite quickly become relevant to business leaders.

3. The Reaction

We’re already seeing a reaction to automation among blue collar workers. And we haven’t even implemented and fully integrated AI and machine learning.

It’s not unlike the rise of the automobile in the early 20th century. Thousands of craftsmen and workers who created and hand crafted buggies were being displaced by automobile factories.

Especially once Ford came along with his assembly line manufacturing process, it was all but over for the horse and buggy industry.

The rise of AI and machine learning won’t be much different. Only this time, it’s all the collared workers who will lose their jobs. From marketing design to manufacturing, AI and machine learning machines will take over.

Do not fear. Like the days of the automobile takeover, new jobs will arise. Yes, there will be unrest. People will riot. Some will suffer for a time. But those who adapt to the change will survive and rise above the rest.

What Your I.T. Department Can Learn From the I.T. Crowd

We’re in a dark and dank dungeon. It smells of sweat, drying milk, and ozone. A server ticks and hums one room over — did you hear something rustling in there?

You get a call from “upstairs.” Before they have a chance to tell you what’s going on, you say, “have you tried turning it off and on again?”

This probably sounds familiar. Not because I.T. departments actually look, sound, smell, and taste like this, but because it sometimes feels like that.

So, let’s take a look at the ultimate parody of the I.T. department and find out what Moss, Roy, and Jenn can teach us about running an I.T. department.

1. People Are Absurdly Predictable

It’s now such an old-hat joke it’s not even funny anymore. “Did you try turning it off and on again.” But it’s really the go-to fix for a lot of computer problems.

We all understand how a memory cache works and 99% of devices use one. Even if a client doesn’t understand the *how*, they still know to try restarting.

But for some reason, it escapes literally everyone’s mind.

This is why it’s most efficient to use a bot to free up 90% of your time dealing with I.T. problems in a business.

Roy’s solution was a taped recording. Comedy gold. But we now have the technology to outsource common Q&A to a machine. Simply set up a bot chat program on every computer and your clients can fix the simplest problems through that. This will leave you plenty of time to catch up on the last season of Mr. Robot.

2. Nobody in Your Office Understands the Network

You’re probably like Ross in that you get frustrated when people mess with the settings on their workstations turning off their “bloody firewalls” and such. But you’ve got to remember: most people don’t understand the network and how it works.

You’ve had education and experience in network services. Few others have.

You’re of course not going to convince a Jenn doppelganger that some black box is the internet, but you can explain why certain things are necessary in simpler terms. If you want people to follow network hygiene protocols, you have to explain why they’re there. And you have to do it in a way people will understand.

If someone doesn’t have a reason for a rule, they’re less likely to follow the rule.

3. Don’t Be a Giddy Goat: Fix Problems Early

You may think a problem is small. Deal with it later, you tell yourself. But often a small problem in the network might be indicative of a flaw in the process.

If you don’t examine the whole system and fix the bug now, it could become a larger debacle down the line. The whole network could go down or you could find yourself with a mess of corrupted data or local storage drives.

Also, don’t just fix the problem, figure out why it happened. Always source to the root of the problem.

What Comes After the Cloud? The Future of Cloud Computing

Before 2007, cloud servers for businesses and consumers just didn’t exist. Yeah, we had accessible servers all over the world, but the way we do cloud computing wasn’t a thing.

In just three years, the number of cloud providers went from nothing to 550,000. We entered the age of cloud computing full tilt.

But now that cloud computing is ubiquitous and most people don’t even think twice about storing and accessing data on the internet, something else must be coming.

Well, sorta.

Cloud technology isn’t going to disappear any time soon. It’s like the internet and computing technology. We merely build on what we’ve created and then call it something different.

Machine to Machine Interaction

The cloud facilitates much more than we ever dreamed possible. But one area we’re seeing explode recently is the realm of the independent machine.

We’ve talked for years about “The Singularity.” A moment in time when machines become conscious and have the capability of outwitting us.

While what’s happening around us at the moment isn’t a Skynet moment yet, we’re slowly marching down the path of machine independence.

The internet of things has been a hot topic for a few years now. And consumers see it most clearly in their smart home products. When you connect a bunch of devices a local network and they can talk to each other, you’re creating a local network of things.

We’re creating incredible machine learning algorithms that can intelligently sort through massive stores of data. They can do so much faster than we can.

But the one thing slowing everything down is latency. We just can’t get things to communicate faster than light.

Even the promise of quantum entanglement as a new way to communicate is a fool’s pursuit.

So, what’s the answer? Edge computing. Or semi-local storage.

Especially in a highly populated area such as a metropolis, you could build a data-center and have devices store data and communicate over a semi-local network.

Real-Time Data

We’re a long ways off from storing most of our data on local drives and tapes. But even local could be faster at times than cloud services. This entirely depends on the network and the service you’re connected to.

If your data center is close by, you’re going to be able to access data faster. For an internet of things, especially a system as complex as a self-driving car traffic system, you’re going to need lightning quick data storage and analysis.

And our digital world is complex. If we were to connect all of the electronic devices we rely on in everyday life, the load on the network would be massive. This, in turn, would slow down network speeds.

The answer to all of this is semi-local edge computing. It will take some time for the real-estate to build and infrastructure to catch up. But I guarantee this is the next step beyond cloud computing. Crypto Arbitrage Platform Concerns, Tutorials, and Results with the Abot

A little while ago a friend told me about an arbitraging platform that was, “too good to be true.  Just put money in and watch it grow”.   He put $60,000 dollars into the platform and in only 2 months it was now worth $100,000 dollars.  I called bullshit and threw out everything at him but he said he could withdraw at any time and it was “risk-free”.  I still called bullshit.

But I tried it out with a small amount…  to my surprise it does “just work”.

Arbitrage is not new or rocket science.  By definition, arbitrage it is the profit from a market imbalance.

In the crypto-coin world, there are many exchanges where the same coins are exchanged (bitcoin, ethereum, etc).  This platform has a bot and it simply looks for differences in prices in these exchanges and then makes a trade to make a profit.

Think of it like this.  You see in the newspapers that 2 different places are selling & buying bananas.  At groceryA the banana is $1.00 and at groceryB the banana is $1.10.   You can simply purchase at A and sell to B and profit 10%.  That is all arbitrage is.

The stock market has been traded by bots for more than 20 years.  The crypto coin world is in its infancy and it makes sense there is such a huge opportunity.

If a system is only buying and selling for a profit than it is risk-free.  In theory at least.

So I have been using and telling all my friends about it.  For newbies and even people familiar with the crypto world, it’s not very easy to set up.  And I am very tired of walking people through it.  So I decided to make videos and direct people here.

These videos are simply about the abot.  They have many other features that I will include as I learn.

I will start with my concerns about the platform:

Now for my tutorial:


And the results so far (I will update this once a month or more):


It Might Be Cliche, But You Can Turn Your Passion Into a Business

You’re sitting your cubicle staring at a blinking cursor. It dances there mocking you. You’re supposed to be typing up that yearly report for the boss. But you’d rather be out in the mountains or on a lake somewhere fishing. Someone comes and taps on your shoulder. It’s the FedEx guy with a large envelope. You rip it open and out slides a flip phone. You open the phone and it rings.

You answer, “Hello?”

“What if I told you that you don’t have to sit in a cubicle forever.”

“Yeah, well, I’m heading home here in an hour…”

“What if I told you that you could turn your passion into a business? That it might take a lot of work, but you could be on the river fishing and making money at the same time.”

Would you believe the man on the phone? Or would be like Neo and decide that the ledge was too dangerous? It’s entirely possible to take a passion and eventually use it as an escape hatch for a boring job. It’s just more work than most realize. So, I’m going to take you through a few bit of advice and hopefully by the end, you’ll be ready to take the leap.

1. It’s Not Wise to Jump Ship Just Yet

Unless you have a year or two safety net of income saved up, you might want to keep that soul-sucking job for the time being. No new business is a guarantee.

Maybe you want to start an SEO company. Perhaps you want to target the cannabis industry. So, you begin to build this business, gain a few clients, and suddenly with the next wave of politicians, even associating with a cannabis company becomes illegal.

It’s something completely out of your control. You can’t have predicted it would happen. And if you left your job, you’re going to be hurting quite a bit.

But if you kept your job, it was just a side hustle, and you can afford to start over in another industry.

2. It’s Not Just a Hobby

If you want to turn your passion into a business, you can’t treat it like a hobby. A hobby is something you spend maybe a few hours on the weekends doing. A business is something you work at every day until it becomes profitable.

One of the best things about working from home is that you can set your own schedule. It’s also one of the worst things about working from home.

If you don’t set a schedule, you won’t get anything done. You’ll be constantly working against your own deadlines or those clients impose on you.

It’s the same when you’re a new entrepreneur with a side-hustle. You need structure or you’ll get home from work and never get anything done.

Just like your boss does for you at your 9-5, you need to create a weekly schedule of when you’re going to work in the evening.

Set weekly goals and strive to meet them.

There are plenty of organizational platforms out there for you to work from. And you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done with a little bit of structure.

3. Seek a Mentor

While you might be an expert in your passion, you may not be an expert in turning it into a business. There are a billion aspects you may not have considered before deciding to turn your passion into a money-making business.

But resources exist to help entrepreneurs every step of the way. The U.S. Small Business Administration built Small Business Development Centers all across the country.

You can learn how to develop a business plan, do market research, even get guidance on how to offer healthcare to future employees.

The private sector offers another free option. SCORE is a non-profit organization that will pair you with a mentor. They offer free live and recorded webinars. They conduct on Demand courses that teach anything from competitive analysis to strategic planning.

If you do become successful enough to quit your job, you don’t have to be lonely. You can find a co-working space and either rent office space or share space with other people.

Many of these environments offer opportunities to network and edvance your business. And when you want to scale, you might find partners and new employees there as well.

4. Use All the Online Tools at Your Disposal

You’re no longer bound by the physical world. Leverage that social media. If you’re just starting out and need to make connections, you’ll find a community for almost every passion on the books.

Social media platforms like Google+ already have a natural setup for community building. And if you don’t have a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account, it’s time to start one.

From these platforms, you will build a following and eventually a brand.

If you end up selling merchandise related to your passion, you’ll easily convert this following into buyers. Gain a massive following on one of the above social platforms and you’ll have another income stream outside of your passion.

5. Don’t Keep it a Secret

While at first you grandma and your sister might be the only ones visiting your site, they’ll tell their friends and their friends will tell theirs. Grassroots is always the best way to build a business. It creates a solid foundation from which to work.


Ignoring Local Search Could Be the Death of Your Marketing Strategy

Imagine you’re in charge of Verizon’s marketing strategy. You’re trying to sell mobile devices on a national and global level. So, you invest in social media, commercials on all the major TV networks, Google and Facebook ads, etc. But you neglect to invest in local advertising or search. Verizon relies on local stores to serve and service their customers. If customers had to scroll to the third page of Google results just to find a Verizon store, they might go to Sprint. An example from my local community: We’ve not had a specialized running store in our town ever. When one threatened to crash our fair city, I was overjoyed.

Only one thing: their location was not prime. No tourists would wander in and a large number of runners would have to drive across town to patronize them.

If it weren’t for local search, nobody would ever find our local running store. And I hope they’re reading, because here are a few reasons why you should never neglect local search.

1. People are Hyper-Local

While city people like to brag about their massive commutes, most people actually don’t drive very far from home. 93% of consumers don’t drive more than 20 minutes for everyday shopping and needs.

Google research tells us that more than 1/3 of all searches are location-based. Google has restructured a large part of their search engine around local search.

Now, proximity isn’t going to be something you do much about once you’ve established a business. Even if it is one of the most important ranking signals for local search.

But, here’s what you do need to know. People aren’t using terms like “near me” anymore. I even tell my wife it’s silly and a waste of energy to type “near me” into Google.

This will mainly affect your keyword research. Local search still revolves around location names, but with Google getting better at gleaning context, you don’t want to overload your content with location names.

2. Neglecting Behavior Analysis Could Make You Miss the Mark

50% of all local searches result in in-store visits from leads. If you own a small business, this should compel you to focus on local search.

About 2/3 of all mobile users prefer brands who include some sort of local element in their app or website. And oddly, a majority of businesses don’t include a local element in their apps or websites. They don’t even claim their listing on most popular search engines either.

How is a customer supposed to find you if you are invisible online? Nobody uses the phone book anymore. It just sits in a drawer somewhere wishing to be read by a filibustering politician.

If you’re a healthcare professional, behavioral trends in your area could inform your local content strategy. Is flu season imminent? Preempt flu season by creating local content targeting anyone who might come down with the flu. Your content will be more effective if you understand current behavior and can predict future behavior.

Location-based statistics are easier to come by now with the advent of mobile technology. Reviews are one of the easiest ways to agreggate data about customers. What are they saying about your business? What are they eating at your restaurant? Whan are they coming to your store?

3. Nobody Will Come to Your Local Event

Even two years ago, it was exceedingly difficult to find local events on Google. Unless you lived in a major metropolis. And even then, it really depended on the effort a city put into their event advertising.

Google has seen the gap and they will raise us a new set of event search features. And they’re hoping to streamline the process of notifying customers and patrons of local events.

At the end of July in 2018, Google announced their plans to update their calendar and event search features. And they should be active within the month. While this is a little late to help people escape the heat this summer, it’s going to permanently change the future of local search.

They’re adding personal recommendations to the list as well. Since Google is already collecting behavioral data on searchers, applying that information to local event search is a logical next step.

Google will eventually use context to help you find events nearby. Typing in something like “free concert” will bring up local events near your location, especially on a mobile device.

How Do You Utilize This?

Even a running store could utilize the new event search features on Google. Set up social runs, running clinics, or even shoe sales events.

Of course, Google is going to get really good at distinguishing between sales-y events and social events. But until they do, you might be able to sneak a sale in there somewhere.

And Google knows that people don’t want to just stay on the Google website. They’ve learned their lesson from the search and answer feature. So, if you’re an SEO, you have no reason to worry about leads bouncing away before clicking your event links.

Of course, other platforms won’t be too happy. Facebook has cornered the event search market for a few years now. Often when I go to look for an event, I use Facebook.

How successful these new search features are depends on how much pushback Google gets from other companies. Will shady backroom deals tank the new features? Or will we see a new dawn in the local event market?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.


8 Web Design Tips That Will Drive Your Customers Crazy (in a Good Way) 2018

So, you think you can just throw up an ad-hoc web store and call it good, huh? Just use a generic template. Put up a few product pages. You’ll be golden, right? I didn’t think so. You wouldn’t be here if that were the case. Building an e-commerce website is like learning to ride a bike. You need training wheels at first, but you will eventually want to do it on your own. You’ll need some help getting there. Most of the people who visit your site aren’t going to buy immediately. You’ve gotta lead them by the hand to the sale. And sometimes they will run away no matter what.

Here are ten ways to design your e-commerce store that will help customers get to the shopping cart.

1. Color Matters More Than You Think

What’s the difference between red and green? Stop signs, stop lights, all use universal colors to communicate.

If you’re trying to get people to click on a button, you’d think that green is the best choice. Maybe it’s our curiosity or our propensity for self-destruction.  But oddly, people want to push the red button more than the green one.

It’s easy to repel customers with colors. You can’t always predict how customers will react to various colors. Everything from culture to region to personal experience can influence how someone reacts to a certain color.

If you know where your audience lives you could reasonably predict how colors will affect customers. Instead, work backward from product to customer. What do your products do for your customers?

Are the products used in exciting and explosive ways? Red and orange might be the colors you would choose.

Are you selling a product meant to soothe? Try blues and whites. Certain yellows and greens might be effective.

2. Video Killed the Radio

Video landing pages could make you a lot of money. 70% of professionals agree that video seems to convert better than regular content. Now, how accurate their perception is depends on a ton of factors.

People are watching a lot of video online. More than 70% of users prefer video over written content.

While this pains my English major’s heart, I have to agree that video is probably superior in this visual media age.

Be sure to code the embedded video to play automatically on your landing page. You have to capture their attention immediately.

3. Include “Trust Symbols” on Your E-Commerce Site

When you go to a site and there is no verification that your payment is secure, would you buy from that website? Of course, not. So, why would you expect your customers to do the same?

First, you will want to choose a trusted checkout service like PayPal or Square to care for your customer’s financial transaction. Then you will want to use whatever code those services employ to verify their service is legit.

You can use customer testimonials in a similar fashion. If customers see others have had a positive experience, they’re more likely to buy from you.

4. Animate Those Calls to Action

I always say animations should be kept to a bare minimum on a website. So, I’m hesitant to even mention this one. But sometimes your customers just need that slap in the face to act (please don’t take that literally).

Something as simple as a quick arrow pointing toward an offer or even just toward the comments section could be enough. You could reward completion of tasks with animation. If someone puts something in the cart, a thumbs-up or an exclamation mark might be enough to spur people to a transaction.

5. Highlight the Free Things

An MIT professor once did a study. He told people to choose between a Hershey bar that cost 10 cents and a Lindt chocolate bar that cost 50 cents. Of course, people chose the better chocolate. When he lowered the price of the Hershey to zero and the Lindt to 40 cents, people chose the Hershey bar.

The “free” option hijacked people’s reasoning. The price difference was the same in both cases, but the perception of zero cost compelled people to choose the lesser option.

The same thing happens when you attach free things onto something that costs money. Anything that involves a quantity could always have a certain percentage more than another option. Call that certain percentage more “free” and people will be more likely to buy it.

6. Boring Typography Kills Babies

There is no excuse for bad typography today. Anyone who just uses the default typography from Microsoft Word needs a brain transplant.

Right now, simple, bold sans-serif is fairly popular. Don’t go overboard on the flowery stuff. You want people to be able to read your content.

And it’s ok to layer and overlay your type font with images as long as you’re able to distinguish the words.

7. White Space is OK

Some people feel the need to squeeze every once of space out of their website. It’s like some newspaperman from the early 20th century took control of their website design.

But it’s really OK to leave space on your website. Why? Because you want to maximize a customer’s attention span.

I suffer from attention deficit disorder. If you throw a billion options in my face, I’ll get overwhelmed and hide in a corner (or on a weird subreddit).

Most people will feel the same way if you don’t use white space in your web design.

8. Parallax isn’t Just for Astronomy

You’re gonna need a super fast host server for this one. But if you can use this effect without slowing down your site, then, by all means, use it.

It’s a simple concept. Overlayed images move over underlayed images as you scroll. You can immerse people in more content in less time if you use parallax scrolling.


Cities Where Millennial Entrepreneurs Are Likely to Thrive

Being originally from farm-town USA, I understand the woes of being a connection-less entrepreneur. People don’t understand your mindset. They don’t get why you don’t want to marry your high school sweetheart and take over the family business. Why would you ever leave these fields of dreams? Don’t you want to be buried here? While I went through a Country phase in high school, tractors and cow shit aren’t really my thing. I prefer mountain trails and artsy cafes. Which is why I’m a freelance writer and not a farmer.

This is why the Northwest United States is now my home. I get the beauty of the Cascades and the opportunities to network all in one place.

If you’re looking for a city where opportunities abound, I’ve got the goods. It may not be my city (although two PNW cities are on this list), but I guarantee that any one of these cities will give you ample opportunity to network and enhance your career.

What Makes a Great City for Young Entrepreneurs?

I’ve lived in various small cities around the country and one thing I’ve realized, they all wish for young leadership while pushing young people out of their cities. Where do young people migrate to when small town USA decides they’re not welcome? Cities.

These cities are full of fellow young Entrepreneurs aged 25-35. More young people in these cities have at least a bachelor’s degree and many of them have gone on to earn professional or graduate degrees.

The Millennial unemployment rate is atrocious at 12.8 percent. The unemployment rate for Millennials in each of these cities sits at 10% or lower.

Another metric to consider when looking at entrepreneur-friendly cities is the income to rent ratio. If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you may not have much money. Even the show Silicon Valley overinflates what small band of entrepreneurs could afford in the valley.

You want a city where rent and bills don’t eat up all your income.

The last metric to consider is the number of start-ups recently born in the area. One of the first cities on the list is prime to be the next Silicon Valley.

1. St. Petersburg, Florida

Home to and a host of other online startups, St. Petersburg is a growing and hip metropolis. With Tampa and some lower-priced suburbs nearby, rent is fairly cheap compared to Silicon Valley.

The greater Tampa Bay Area is listed as one of the top places for women to start a business. In our current culture of misogyny, this is an important aspect to consider.

St. Pete’s is still small enough to create an easier atmosphere in which to network and yet it’s growing at a phenomenal rate.  It’s the fourth fastest growing job market in the U.S.

On top of all, you get to hang out in a hip downtown full fo grunge and hipster bars and cafes. The beaches are chill and the party almost never stops.

2. Alexandria, Virginia

Just across the river from D.C., Alexandria recently became the place entrepreneurs fled to after realizing D.C. was too expensive. All the power brokers are there.

Alexandria is in the top ten in unemployment rates in the country. And they earned a top-20 spot for small business loans and diversity.

Property prices are cheaper than across the river in the District.

Biggest downside? If the nation’s capital gets hit by a nuclear attack, you’re screwed. Other than that, the small city feel of Alexandria will attract Millennials who are sick of city congestion and expense.

3. Austin, Texas

Austin once tried to outlaw Uber. They succeeded for a while, but Texas said no. And yet Austin is known as a Millennial haven.

It’s the 11th most populous city in the United States. Almost 20% of that population is between the ages of 25 and 34. This is one of the most Millennial-populated cities in the United States.

Known just as much as Portland, Oregon for their brunches (with a Southwest touch — hot sauce, anyone?), you’ll leave your office and encounter food carts and hip bars galore.

Why else would you want to move to Austin? Well, Texas is one of the few U.S. states that don’t charge personal or corporate income tax. This means you will only have to worry about Federal income tax come April.

4. Boulder, Colorado

Once known as yuppy capital of the U.S. and the birthplace of 4/20, Boulder has grown up a little bit. Often when you have a major research University nearby, things look up for local entrepreneurs.

If you move to Boulder, you’ll find a Techstars accelerator, and an entrepreneurship and innovation center. Median household income is around $70k and the average rent for a single family home (not an apartment like in the Bay Area, mind you) is $2,204. And unemployment is at an all-time low.

You’re only 30 minutes from Denver and just an hour from some of the best skiing in the world. And if Boulder is too big for your liking, you could move to Lyons and commute 30 minutes.

If you love trails, you’ll have your fill and find plenty of people who just love the outdoors. And it’s one of the most educated cities in the state with 60% of people owning a bachelor’s degree or higher.

5. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Having grown up in Indiana and Michigan, I always thought of the east side of Michigan as the ghetto. And Flint hasn’t done much to bolster that image. But Ann Arbor is worlds apart from Detroit and all it’s famous for.

While I’m biased toward several cities on the west side, Ann Arbor is still ranked #1 in Michigan for entrepreneurial achievement. And my love of Notre Dame doesn’t dampen the fact that the University of Michigan has helped change the landscape in Ann Arbor for local residents.

6. San Diego, California

A major U.S. port that features a massive Naval Base and the San Diego Zoo, San Diego is mainly known for it’s tourism and mild weather. The latter is a major perk for anyone wanting a great place to chill. But what makes San Diego so great for Millennial entrepreneurs?

Tijuana. Across the border is a less regulated world of tech startups where you can get your app or program developed for a third the price. Plus, you’ll learn some Spanish just by being near Mexico.

And if you’re looking for a more affordable place to live in California, San Diego hit the spot. While places like La Jolla and Del Mar might be prime for luxury real estate, you can find cheaper land out by the North Park and South Park neighborhoods in San Diego for a fraction of the price.

San Diego isn’t up there with Austin as far as the rent to income ratio, but it’s nowhere near the insanity of Silicon Valley.

7. Ames, Iowa

If you’re one to get vertigo just looking at mountains and cliff-side villas, then Iowa might be your destination city. It’s home to Iowa State, the first land-grant university in the United States.

About 60k residents (half of which are students), Ames, Iowa features a population of 20-35-year-olds in the 30% percent range.

Almost 50% of the population owns a bachelors degree or higher making their children of the corn possibly the most likely to succeed. And the town itself features the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Papajohn Center calls their entrepreneur network the Entrebold network. They believe correctly you need to be bold to be an entrepreneur and they want the people in their network to act boldly.

They feature weekly and monthly events for entrepreneurs, bringing in speakers and putting on workshops.

8. Seattle, Washington

While possibly more young people live in Portland, Oregon, Seattle still takes the cake when it comes to entrepreneurship. While only 16% of this buzzing metropolis is between the ages of 25-34, the number of young people who’ve earned a bachelor’s or higher wins over Portland, Oregon.

And with major corporations like Microsoft and Amazon nearby, there’s plenty of opportunity for seed money for virtually any tech venture.

As far as environment goes, you’re only a 30-minute drive from the Cascades and world-class trails. Just go west and you’re in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Penninsula.

The People Make the Place

Really, it’s not the city or the location but the people who make a place entrepreneur-friendly. If the entrepreneurs in a city aren’t already working together to attract more business, then a city won’t be attractive.

Where have you found success in bringing entrepreneurs together? Let me know in the comments below.


Scam or Totally Legit Business? What You Need to Know About Multi-Level Marketing

I grew up watching my mom jump from one multi-level marketing business to the next. She was a stay-at-home mom who needed a hobby. It began with blocky 90’s jewelry and ended with Longaberger Baskets. I saw various things fill my parent’s shelves from candles and stamps to useless cooking utensils. My mom recently tried to give me some Longaberger baskets when I complained my shelves were empty.

For my mom, MLM was a social opportunity. She had friends who wanted to buy stuff from her. And she got to throw parties at their houses (more fun cause you don’t have to clean up after).

But if you’re actually trying to make money, is multi-level marketing really worth it? Or is it a “pyramid” scheme like so many claim? Let’s take a closer look.

The Basics of Multi-Level Marketing

Alright, let’s banish the idea of the pyramid scheme. A pyramid scheme is illegal in the United States. A pyramid scheme relies on investment rather than product sales. The Ponzi Scheme is a good example.

While some multi-level marketing businesses have a history of shady practices, they aren’t usually intentional scams. And, as long as a company is selling a legitimate product to the public, in the U.S. they are a legit business.

Where Does the Name Come From?

The biggest incentive to get others to join you in an MLM business? You get some of their money.

When you recruit someone into an MLM business, the company often awards you a percentage of their profits. This is the multi-level aspect of MLM. The money flows upward and the lower you are on the totem pole, the less you make.

But the more people you have under you, the more you make. You get a higher percentage of overall profits the more people you have below you.

The higher you are on the totem pole, the more you make as well. It’s pretty easy to see why people might get this mixed up with a pyramid scheme. The structure still mimics a pyramid.

Benefits of Multi-Level Marketing

Most MLM businesses draw people in by pointing out how little they need to invest. Get started for only x dollars, they say. They’ll point out that you become your own boss and you make your own schedule.

And it’s all true.

The Entry Bar is Comparatively Low

But the biggest benefit of MLM is the low cost of entry. Even the most expensive businesses like Lularoe ($5,000 worth of merchandise? No thanks…) don’t require much compared to the overhead of a typical small business. A franchise itself could cost upwards of $100,000 and you might need a net worth of over $500,000.

There are a ton of MLM businesses who charge way less than Lularoe. Some have an entry fee of $500 or less.

The Mentorship is Inherent in the Program Itself

Just because the person above you is profiting off your sales doesn’t mean they don’t care. In fact, the better you do the better they do. It’s a win-win scenario if they want it to be.

It’s how the best MLMs grow rapidly at first. If the product is a great one, they then remain stable after a time.

Those above you can help you set up your marketing, answer questions, and even some companies feature regular meetings for their sellers.

You will succeed only if you have the best support from above in an MLM. You don’t want to be caught out alone not knowing anything about marketing.

The Marketing is Social and Simple

My wife bought into the Lularoe craze for a while. She didn’t sell, but she bought…a lot. One of her favorite sellers had the best marketing strategy out of most Lularoe consultants.

She had two platforms and kept them simple. She built a blog and she created a Facebook page. She put all her efforts into these two platforms. And it yielded results.

She is still strong and selling two years on when many consultants have fallen away.

If you enter an MLM, be sure to learn how to build a blog. Getting your storefront to the top spot on Google will help you immensely in attracting customers.

Then focus on one social media platform. With Facebook’s live video platform, it’s easy to attract customers there. But you could use Instagram’s similar features.

My wife’s consultant would use Facebook’s live video feature to host online “parties.” She would showcase clothing live and people could live-claim the clothes as she went along.

You can make quite a small living from MLM marketing if you’re willing to treat it like a business.

A Few MLM Negatives

Unfortunately, some MLMs begin as a fad and then fade away if they don’t pivot. Lularoe is a great example of this. They rode the wave of popularity until they couldn’t. Then they shrank and many sellers went out of business.

Only the sellers with the biggest audience continued once Lularoe pivoted away from cartoonish prints. The rest were stuck with inventory they couldn’t sell for full price. They ended up discounting their wares drastically just to get back some of what they gambled.

Most people don’t turn a profit in MLM because they treat it as a hobby rather than a business.

My advice for success in an MLM? Create a business plan and stick to it as much as you can. Pay for good marketing. Build a blog. Then build an audience.


10 Companies That Took Off in Unexpected Ways

We constantly hear about the Microsofts and Apples of the world. The garage band companies from humble places. But those companies were a semblance of what they would eventually become. What about the companies that took a chance on something new? What about the jokes people expected to go nowhere? These are the surprising stories that continually surprise us.

We’ll start with a company you may not have heard of. And don’t worry, it’s not actually a joke.

1. Potato Parcel

When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? Letter writing is a lost art. So, there has to be a better way than Amazon to buoy the failing U.S. Postal Service, right?

How about potatos? No, not bulk shipments from Idaho, but messages sent via potato.

What began a satirical joke turned into a successful business called Potato Parcel. Of course, sending a potato as a gift is a joke, but people actually pay $14 to send a custom potato through the mail.

2. Taco Bell Hot Dogs?

In 1946, faux-Mexican food didn’t exist. In fact, not many people in the United States even ate the stuff. This is probably why Glen Bell opened a hot dog stand in San Bernadino, California instead.

After four years of hawking dogs on the street, Glen opened his first restaurant, Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs. This was in a primarily Latino neighborhood.

Glen noticed that the little Mexican cafe across the street had a line outside the door. When he went over, he realized people were buying hard-shelled tacos.

Glen Bell is the founder of Taco Bell. No joke. A hot dog salesman started your guilty pleasure fast food joint.

3. Ship Your Enemies Glitter

While the days of anthrax scares are over, we’re now worried about glitter bombs.

Yep. That’s right. You should be utterly terrified that someone might send you glitter through the mail.

No, really, this is a legitimate business that recently sold for $85,000. They now ship other jokes like an online novelty shop. But they did begin as a joke.

The founder, Matthew Carpenter, never intended on making glitter bombing into a business. He’s essentially an accidental entrepreneur. It was supposed to be a side project and it became stressful to maintain. He decided to sell it then hoping for an easier life.

4. Game Neverending

Imagine a game where you travel the world, interact with others, buy, sell, trade, and craft items. This could be any video game today, right? What if I told you that’s what the photo site Flickr used to be.

It was a multiplayer online game called Game Neverending. And it devolved into a single chat system where you could share and talk about photos.

This was much easier to scale from an I.T. perspective than an online game. And the concept involved a much wider audience.

Eventually, Steward Butterfield and Caterina Fake figured out that users just wanted to share photos with each other. This was just before Facebook took off. And then Yahoo! bought them out for 35 million dollars.

5. Snow in Florida?

I remember the first time I’d met someone who’d never seen snow. I was 10 and she was a cute 11-year-old from Florida. We met on a ski shuttle in Colorado. It blew my mind that this pretty lady had never seen snow in her short life.

Now, our kids can share the joy of snow with their pen pals (are those still a thing?) with the entry of their parent’s credit card. It’s a company that actually ships a box of snow for anyone wanting to share winter with the people in the less fortunate states.

Ship Snow, Yo, and Ship Foliage do similar things. One ships snow and the other ships “hand-collected New England foliage.”

Ship Foliage made $5k in sales within the first week.

6. Berkshire Hathaway Men’s Suit Linings

You might know Berkshire Hathaway as the real estate company Warren Buffet built. But it wasn’t always Warren Buffet’s venture and it wasn’t always a real estate business.

What if I told you they were once a cotton mill that specialized in suit coat pockets for men? In the 60’s, I’m not sure Buffet even knew what would come of the textile business. But he bought it for a “measly” $14 million.

Now it’s grossing a lot more than that, trust me.

7. The Best Pet You’ll Ever Own

I’m not actually surprised when someone tells me their multimillion dollar business began as a bar conversation. Alcohol often fuels ambition and erases fears.

But, in 1975, Gary Dahl actually took his bar conversation to the moon. It was about selling mere rocks to children.

It was a simple idea. Past two googly-eyes on a smooth rock, box it up, and give it to your kid as a pet.

This actually made Dahl an unexpected amount of money and the man is going to be well off for a while.

8. The Marriot Root Beer Stand

J. Willard Marriot started an A&W Root Beer Stand not long after getting married to Alice Sheets Marriot. But it wasn’t just one stand, it was a whole franchise for D.C., Baltimore, and Richmond.

Of course, they couldn’t expand the franchise without starting somewhere. They opened a 9-stool operation at 3128 14th Street, NW in D.C.

Later they opened a hotel and the rest is history as they say.

9. Cat Memes as a Business?

In the age of the internet it’s totally possible to make money off of your cat. Remember Grumpy Cat? My friend met him at VidCon one year. His owner is now well off.

Same goes for the creator of the “I Can Has Cheezburger?” meme. It was a 2008 phenomenon that exploded. Picture of cats with misspelled captions because, duh, cats can’t spell, right?

The site I Can Has Cheezburger launched as a joke and soon shut down due to traffic overload.

10. NASCAR Liquor Bootlegging Service

Thankfully beer is now legal in the United States or I don’t think NASCAR would have much of an audience. But their participation in the alcohol market wasn’t always in providing fast-paced entertainment.

During the prohibition, they were a fast whiskey delivery service capable of blazing past the police. Now they’re a (rather boring) legal operation.


The Cloud is For More Than Just Hiding Your Porn Stash

Ask most consumers to explain the cloud and they’ll tell you about online storage. And while this is a semi-accurate description of the cloud, there is so much more to cloud computing than just a 21st century way of keeping your mom from finding your porn stash. The cloud is still a mystery to many people even today. They see it as some nebulous concept that only techies should have to worry about understanding. As long your stuff is safe, who cares how the wall was built around it, right?

Only problem is, if you don’t understand cloud services, you won’t get the most out of them. This is especially true if you’re a business person or an entrepreneur. There is so much more you could do with cloud computing. Here are a few things.

1. Wait, What is Cloud Computing Then?

Cloud computing has actually been around almost as long as the internet. What’s brought it to the general public is accessibility and a lower price point when it comes to server technology. Accessibility and a lower price point recently brought cloud computing to businesses and the general public.

The official definition of the cloud is this: “cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Make sense? I thought not.

Essentially, the cloud is a collaboration between different network technologies and companies and online software.

An easy way to understand this is by looking at Adobe Premiere Pro. This is video-editing-as-a-service. The new model Adobe spans across multiple devices, automatically backs up your work to online servers, and constantly updates. No need to buy a new software suite every few years.

What we’ll focus on here is business I.T. services on the cloud. These could be useful for anyone running a business or a website.

2. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

Data is gold in today’s economy. Massive corporations have experienced irreparable damage because their data was compromised. You may not hold millions of social security numbers and tons of personal financial data, but you might harbor more important data than you know.

This is where DRaaS comes in. This replaces the need for typical onsite data backups. No pesky onsite network storage.

It’s typically subscription based. It can automatically detect new data on your site and migrate it to the cloud.

Often, when you sign up for DRaaS, you will agree to a Recovery Point Objective and a Recovery Time Objective. These indicate how much time until you recover your data (RPO) and how long until everything is fully up and running (RTO). If you’re running a dinosaur park, you might want these to be super short.

3. Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

Would you like to get rid of the bulky box near your desk? If you own a decent sized business, the hardware required to support each employee can run up costs monumentally. You have to take into consideration upgrades, network costs, I.T., physical storage, etc.

Desktop as a Service eliminates almost all hardware concerns apart from keyboard, mouse, monitor and a network box. Just like DRaaS there is no need for onsite network storage.

It might be weird to get used to having nothing for your I.T. department to mess with. Trust me, their lives will get a lot easier when they no longer have to constantly update 20 local machines. Instead, they might spend a bit of time with customer service.

When your employees log on, they will forget they’re working on a virtual desktop. Everything will be the same. An operating system, files, applications, etc. They’ll just be in the cloud instead of on a physical machine.

Several DaaS services offer Windows as their O.S. If your employees are used to using Windows, they won’t have to learn a whole new O.S.

The service takes care of security and backups. This resolves a billion headaches for any I.T. department. Free up time, space, and resources. All these can be used toward your goals rather than for your I.T. implementation.

4. Identity as a Service (IaaS)

After watching Mr. Robot for the first time, I fancied myself a hacker for a time. I started exploring the network of my place of employment looking for weaknesses. I found a ton.

I was able to worm my way into more place than I should have. I eventually went to the I.T. guy and showed him all the passwords and secure information I was able to access. He was grateful.

But it’s difficult to scale this kind of thing. Keeping straight who has access to what and restricting certain levels of employment can be difficult for any one-man I.T. department. Save them a headache and subscribe to Identity as a Service.

Once you go IDaaS, you won’t go back. Rapid deployment, reduced operational complexity all make for a better experience for both management and employees.

Take on extra security measures easily. Multi-factor authentication is one of the best ways to keep your data and access secure and you’ll finally be able to implement it.

While the service can take care of everything for you, you can customize access all you like.

Cloud is So Much More

As you can see, cloud computing is much more than Google Drive. It can free up resources, increase security, and expand your capabilities.

Cloud computing entirely changed how we interact with data and each other. It’s the precursor for many revolutions to come. What ways has cloud computing changed your business? Let us know in the comments below.


Screw the Naysayers. Learn From Beryl Stafford and Her Vegan Snack Success

Sometimes, having the world against you is a good thing. You realize whatever you’re trying to accomplish is bigger than what most people believe is possible. And if you were to accomplish it, the world would bow down in adoration. You wouldn’t think the world would be against a new kind of vegan cereal bar. But only 6% of U.S. consumers claim to be vegan. And most people don’t understand vegetarianism let alone veganism. (You’re vegetarian? Ok, I’ll fix chicken!)

When Beryl Stafford began baking oat bars and wrapping them in Saran wrap, she wasn’t exactly gunning to change the world’s mind about vegan snacks. Instead, she was hoping to avoid a boring 9-5 and the whole panty-hose and uncomfortable pants-suit culture.

Here’s how she fought through the naysayers and came out on top. Hint: she never gave into the pants-suit culture.

1. Stafford Started Small and Local

Whenever you buy a cookie at your local cafe, you might be eating the next great snack food. Often, part-time bakers will sell primarily to local cafes with no thought to conquering the world with their baked goods. Beryll Stafford was no different.

Recently divorced, Stafford’s lawyer told her to get a job. She thought this was rude and instead decided to start a business instead. She rented a small commercial kitchen and began baking a few hours a week. She joined up with a local food accelerator to learn about the food business as well.

She spent several years baking part time and selling to local cafes. She never expected her products to leave her small city in the Colorado foothills.

It wasn’t until the local Whole Foods purchasing agent tried Stafford’s bars, did the possibility of larger dreams become a reality. All it took was an impromptu pitch and she had the regional office giving her a call about expanding to 20 different stores.

It was then she realized it was possible to turn her side business into a main gig.

2. Sometimes it Takes Boots on the Ground

Like all great revolutions, Beryl Stafford’s vegan snack product relied on a ground game to rival the biggest political campaign. She actually went to southern California and hand-delivered bars to Whole Foods reps in store.

She eventually found a distributor in the area willing to ship her product en mass. This was the gateway to a larger operation.

A boots-on-the-ground strategy isn’t exactly glamorous. The trouble with having the world (and even your accountant) against you, is that you’re the general and the army. You work all the hours and do all the work. Yes, you have nobody telling you what to do, but your ambition becomes your slave driver.

3. Early Struggles During Growth

If you look at a Bobo’s oat bar now, you would think it was baked locally. While Stafford ditched her original Saran wrap packaging, she wanted her product to remain as “homemade” as possible.

But homemade isn’t exactly easy to scale. Imagine going back in time to when we had no machines. A bread factory employed thousands of people to bake bread.

In our society of fast and efficient everything, it seems crazy to insist on hand baked goods sold in bulk. But Bobo’s accomplishes this with only 100 bakers and about 7,000 pans.

Stafford’s quality control actually looks for “imperfection” in their product’s shape as a sign of that precious homemade look.

Packaging Issues

On top of how to maintain a homemade look, Stafford struggled with packaging. She wanted customers to see the actual bar and not some picture or graphical depiction. The packaging needed to be clear.

But clear packaging decreases shelf-life. This caveat would decrease revenue and growth, but Stafford stuck to her guns.

4. Where is Bobo’s Going Today

It’s been 15 years since Stafford named her oat bars using her daughter’s nickname. We wouldn’t be talking about Bobo’s today if Stafford hadn’t fought for her vision. Her vision looks like $8 million in investment funding in 2017.

Bobo’s is doubling the number of accounts and revenue each year. They’re also increasing revenue from existing accounts, meaning existing inventory is flying off the shelves.

This brought Bobo’s inventing new products.

The Vegan “Pop-Tart”

Bobo’s was merely a cereal bar made with natural ingredients until recently. Now they’ve introduced a toaster-ready product to their line-up. The Bobo’s Toast’r comes in Blueberry Lemon Poppyseed, Strawberry Jam, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Almond Butter.

These flavors aren’t something you’ll find in your typical box of sugary, health-destroying Pop Tarts. And they’re made with gluten-free, non-GMO vegan ingredients to boot.

The basic ingredients of Bobo’s hasn’t changed. The new Toast’rs are just a new configuration of the classic Bobo’s oat bars.

Since the beginning, Bobo’s has expanded beyond Whole Foods. You’ll find the tasty snack at your local Kroger and Wegman’s and other regional chains thanks to creative digital marketing.

Bobo’s also recently partnered with Barnana, a company that tries to eliminate food waste on banana farms. They upcycle “imperfect” bananas to food companies who will don’t care if their bananas are bruised.

An Unabashed Vision

When you walk into your local grocery store and walk down the snack aisle, you’ll notice a glut of major corporate products on the shelf. It takes the bravery of a few to introduce a better product into such a competitive market.

Bobo’s is proof that sticking to a vision founded in unabashed and solid values can bring success. It takes dedication and more work than you might imagine. But the reward is great.

What is your vision? Are you ready to launch out and face the world? Let me know in the comments below.


What You Need to Consider Before Outsourcing Anything

In college, I took a course on global capitalism from a fairly liberal political science professor. Back then, globalism was a conservative idea to be eschewed by the left. Outsourcing was an evil corporate activity exploiting workers all over the globe. Now, nobody bats an eye at the word. It’s divorced from sweatshops and third world economies. The most reputable companies now outsource all over the globe.

But not everything about outsourcing is roses and sunshine. Here are a few things you should consider before outsourcing whole departments.

1. Does Your Management Know How to Manage an Outsourced Department?

Every business decision comes at a cost. Even outsourcing, which is supposed to save you money in the long run, can end up costing you dearly.

Cost cutting is the number one reason businesses outsource. But if you don’t have the structure in place to manage an outsourced department, are you really going to save money?

You could end up with more of a headache trying to wrangle an offshore team if your management has no experience handling an outsourced department. Especially if you have clients waiting on outsourced projects, time delays and cultural misunderstandings could tank your business.

2. The First One Might Not Be Your Forever Freelancer

If you’re running SEO services in Singapore and you need a writer for your SEO blogging service, be mindful. The first writer to come along may not be a great fit.

Here’s a great trick: make them do a paid test.

No matter what industry you’re hiring for, there will be a skill set needed. This should be the entry fee for getting into any outsourced or remote position. If you don’t have the requisite skills, you can’t even get in the door.

Once they pass the paid skills test, you can hire them on a one week to one-month trial basis. They must work well with your team, hit their deadlines, and get along well with clients.

Feel free to let anyone go who doesn’t fit these criteria. It’s a cutthroat freelance world out there and you’re not indebted to the first person who walks in the door and passes the skill test.

3. Price Shopping Might Not Get You Quality

The biggest problem with platforms like Upwork? It’s a race to the bottom line. It’s the opposite of an auction.

The goal is often to find the freelancer who is underselling themselves. The novice who is actually good at what they do. This might be ok for a while, but soon enough, you’ll land a dud.

And the quality of those you hire directly affects your clients and your ability to increase revenue. But at the same time, you don’t want to overspend on your budget.

Just Do It

The goal here should be to pair down the local company tasks to what you or your employees are most efficient at. While you might have talent within your company to do various tasks, are they efficient at those things?

If not, take those tasks and outsource them. This will free up time to get the most important tasks done for your company.


How to Sink Your Teeth into Real Estate Without Buying Property

Right now is one of the best times to get into real estate investing. Price growth is slated to slow and then pick up speed again. And we’ve seen only a marginal bump in mortgage rates. All of this spurs confidence in the market even if inventory is down. And with confidence comes increase in prices and increase in value. You’ve got to get on the cart now before it climbs too high.

But if you don’t necessarily want to bind yourself with a mortgage and a house you can’t sell for a while, there are other ways to invest in real estate. Here are a few methods investors use to increase their dividends.

1. Grab Those REITs While They’re Still Hot

A real estate investment trust is a company that owns or finances real estate. Said real estate must produce income for it to be a real estate investment trust. The company must also invest at least 75% of its total assets in real estate, cash or U.S. Treasuries.

There are three kinds of REITs you could invest in. Most are equity REITs.  These investments require the REIT to distribute at least 90% of the portfolio’s income to shareholders. These types of REITs invest directly in real estate.

Mortgage REITs loan money to real estate owners in the form of mortgages and various types of real estate loans. The money you earn comes from a net interest margin.

Hybrid REITs are a combination of the previous two.

2. Mutual Funds Are a Classical and Solid Option

While REITs are a type of mutual fund, you can invest in other real estate mutual funds as well. These kinds of mutual funds provide an opportunity to brush up against domestic and international stock positions.

They’ve outperformed the stock market historically, but they’re also slightly higher risk than your typical stocks and bonds. This means it shouldn’t be your sole source of investment. It should be part of a diverse portfolio.

But it’s a fairly lucrative investment if done right.

There are thousands of mutual funds available. A fraction of those are real estate mutual funds. How then do you pick a mutual fund?

Look at the Expense Ratio

Each real estate mutual fund must overcome costs before it can make money for investors. When mutual funds express this amount, they do so using a ratio or percentage.

You want to pick a mutual fund with a low expense ratio. If you don’t, the decision or lack of wisdom could put a massive dent in your potential wealth.

High Turnover Ratios Are a No Go

This is a tax problem. If you jump into a mutual fund that turns over 50% or more of their portfolio each year, stay away.

Why? Because the taxman will tax the property every time it’s sold. The longer a mutual fund holds onto property, the less the taxman will take out.

The Management Team Needs Experience

Who did the mutual fund hire to manage the portfolio? Will they be successful? Will they manage your portfolio well?

And ask if they have skin in the game. If a manager doesn’t have a substantial amount of their own net worth invested alongside fund holders, find another mutual fund.

Have you found other ways to invest in real estate without buying property? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.